Polling station No.6. Restoring justice
It may sound very naive but for me election observation is an attempt to restore justice. Elections must be held according to the law, namely the Electoral Code. But what hides behind the theory?
Let the elections begin
Like most of observers, I began my mission on the opening day of the early voting process. My station registered 18 observers: 10 from state institutions (trade unions, the Women's Union, Youth Union BRSM and "Belaya Rus"), 4 from the organization "Right of Choice", and 4 observers (including me) from human rights centers.
During the early voting the most important thing is to count the real number of those casting votes. According to our estimates (and according to the official protocol too) 33.1% (461 from 1390) benefited from the right to vote not on the main voting day.
There are, however, two more elements to the procedures: voting at home and the main election day on Sunday.
We can not forget that the day of the elections in Belarus is always a celebration time: usually a concert of young talents and an open bar with cheap alcohol and confection. People come to vote with their whole families. Have you ever seen it somewhere else?
It is sometimes hard to witness those weak elderly citizens coming to the station, ignoring an opportunity to vote at home while holding the belief that their vote has some value...
Around noon, the deputy chairman of the commission grabbed a stack of ballots with an vote-at-home ballot box and leaves the polling station. When we asked the chairman about the number of applications, we received a rather strange answer: "There were 20 applications, but I have given 30 ballots", he said and shrugged. According to the Electoral Code, a commission can take a number of ballots equal to the number of voters who applied. Fortunately, our polling station was visited by an OSCE mission and we know that they certainly reported the number of at home voters. According to them, the number was 56. The Commission lied to someone: either to us or OSCE. Or, in the end, to both.
I wrote a statement asking for a spot from which I would be able to see the contents of the ballot, as I wanted to make a video of the counting process. The answer was: “The place will be provided. But it absolutely forbidden to record anything because the observer will therefore interfere the process”. It is important to emphasize that the Code does not provide any regulations about shooting. Neither forbidden nor allowed. But that is the reply. Any activity that may create a conflict is punishable by removal from the polling station.
The finish line
What happens after closing the process? It is better to see it once than hear a hundred times: A video from the station recorded by Belarus Votes.
The commission refused to respond to any requests, recommendations or complaints. Observers from pro-government organizations are provocateurs.
In the end we know the exact number of people who voted. But we did not see any marks on the ballots. Was there the open and public counting of votes? No. Is it in accord with the Electoral Code? Also no. So are we still speaking about fair elections? They leave us with more questions than answers.
The background image is a derivative of "Belarus" by Marc Veraart, used under CC BY.